a not-so-distant India past
heat like a tandoori oven
visible waves over thirsty land
a widowed queen strides proudly
gold bangles clinking
a staccato to the susurrus
of her silk finery
she strews flowers on a reverent crowd
chants ‘Ram, Ram! Ram, Ram!’
burns on her husband-king’s pyre.
nowadays, she would scatter his ashes
in the sacred Ganges
I once was like her
but have lost my rank and privilege
in the palace household
Today my pyre is humility.
Its flames set my jewelry a-sparkle
and the waves of heat flutter my sari
Burned to ash then re-risen,
what shall I become?
a temple dancer
or a sacred prostitute perhaps?
an ochre-clad renunciant?
or a wild-free-no-name sage woman
naked and unabashed?
-- March 17, 2005